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“Who are we going to see?”

 

“Darcy Lewis, she came in with Dr. Foster,” Natasha shrugs, allowing Steve to open the door for them.

 

“Hmm,” Steve nods, holding the door open as he skims through the mission brief.

 

“It’s a good plan.”

 

“It’s a terrible plan.”

 

“You agreed to it.”

 

“So I did,” he says, the side of his mouth ticking up a fraction. “What’s Lewis’ clearance?”

 

“Not high enough.”

 

“Got it,” he rumbles, his eyes scan over the room in quick darting glances. Old habits die hard even in the safest of places. The room is decorated in blue and beige, with little drift wood accents, an oil painting of a ship struggling to stay afloat in violent seas, clusters of iridescent sea shells and polished pebbles. Mumford & Sons plays softly through hidden speakers and there are two closed doors on opposite sides of the room. Wall to ceiling window to let in the daylight, or what appears to be daylight; the room is an oasis of calm in the middle of a warren of offices in the middle of the tower.

 

Darcy Lewis is hunched over a small table pawing through a small case of brightly tipped pens. A handful of paintbrushes, paint pots, three empty tumblers, a clear bottle of fluid with an SI label crookedly slapped on the side, and a battered sketchbook cluster on the table. The sketchbook is green leather, scratched and stained, held shut with a matching scrap of green leather ribbon with a small skeleton key dangling from the end. Pieces of paper and fabric trail out between the pages.

 

“Er, hey, Ms Romanoff, Captain Am...Rogers,” she says, reaching up to smooth her back her hair with both hands where it’s fallen loose from the knot at the nape of her neck.

 

“Thank you for doing this, Darcy,” Natasha smiles warmly, her eyes flicking between the dark haired woman and himself.

 

“It’s not a problem, Ms Romanoff, you promised me the chance to play with some new toys,” Darcy says, mouth dropping into a little ‘o’ as colour creeps into her cheeks, and blindly grabs for one of the pens from the case on the table brandishing it like a weapon.

 

“Steve,” Natasha prompts, a too sharp smile flitting across her face.

 

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Miss Lewis,” Steve says, offering up a polite smile.

 

“Oh please, only my English teacher in eighth grade ever called me that. Well, him and that one time in New Mexico when...nevermind.”

 

“Nat says you’re an artist.”

 

“Oh, well I wouldn’t go that far. I doodle a little, is all,” she says with a shrug, eyes dropping down to the well loved sketchbook on the table. There’s a nervous energy about the girl, bright eyes darting around the room and taking quick glances up at him, slightly crooked white teeth sinking into her plump bottom lip. “I like the scruff,” Darcy says, right hand fluttering around the lower half of her face.

 

“Really? You don’t think it makes me look like Stark?” Steve asks, reaching up to smooth his beard down. It doesn’t itch any more but it doesn’t feel natural yet on his face.

 

“It’s for the mission, right? Which I know absolutely nothing about other than I get to play with magic pens. The beard is awesome.”

 

“Thanks. So, do you want to look at the sketches I drew for the...”

 

“No, I mean, yes I do, because duh, but I’m gonna make a mess trying to draw somebody else’s design on Captain America’s skin. God.”

 

“I’m not in the suit, you don’t have to keep callin’ me that,” he says, mildly disappointed that she doesn’t want to see what he has drawn and saved on his tablet. Though they weren’t his best work, the project did eat up time while stuck with Barton in a safehouse for far too long for his own questionable sanity.  Steve much preferred to get his hands covered in charcoal and litter the floor in thick curls of pencil shavings than the clean lines made by the stylus, but it was art and a piece of the future he found fascinating.

 

“I need to go check on something, I’m sure you will be fine in Darcy’s capable hands,” Natasha says, patting his arm.

 

He arches a brow, holding his tongue on the ‘really, Nat’ that is ready to bubble out.

 

Darcy’s face scrunches up, she plucks one of the pens from the case, and rolls it between her palms. Back and forth for a minute. “Okay, for the record this whole thing is really weird you know. The Black Widow did not say I was going to draw on a national icon.”

 

“I’m just a guy.”

 

“Yeah, ‘cause that makes it all better,” she says, rocking up onto her toes and nodding once to herself before looking him up and down.

 

“S’true though.”

 

“Alright, Steve, strip.”

 

“It would be my genuine pleasure,” Steve says with a straight face, reaching up to grasp the back of his t-shirt and dragging it over his head in one smooth movement. Darcy’s eyes follow the path of his shirt and Steve bites back the pleased smile twitching at the corners of his mouth at her quiet ‘wow’. Vanity may not have been one of his bigger sins but he wasn’t completely immune to the pleased gaze of a gorgeous woman.



Threads of tension fill the room as Darcy stalks around him in a circle, the tips of her fingers trailing over his bicep and up to his shoulder. Her fingers press and prod at his arm, and she mutters soft words to herself that he wonders if they make any more sense to her than they do to him.

 

“Am I a decent enough canvas for you?”

 

“Well, you’re pale enough.”

 

“Gee, thanks. Next time I’ll work on my tan,” Steve says, dryly.

 

“You do that,”  Darcy says, pushing up the sleeves of her black cardigan. The knit fabric is dotted with silvery lines of thread and tiny beads in the shape of constellations, that catch and reflect the overhead light as they trail over the right side of the cardigan. A splash of blue and black ink colors her left wrist, a swirl and three slashed lines, in blue, green and red. It takes a moment to figure out it’s where she tested out the ink.  “Okay, sit down here.”

 

“Yes, ma’am,” he says, earning him a eye roll as he sits down on the leather cushioned stool beside the table of pens and pots of paint.

 

The first touch of the pen to his shoulder is cold and Steve cranes his neck to watch Darcy work. Her tongue is caught between her teeth as she concentrates on the canvas of his skin, sketching out quick lines back and forth. Steve curls his toes and grits his teeth at the sensation of the pen dragging over his flesh. Pain he can deal with, he lived a lifetime of every step he took, every breath causing some form of pain and discomfort.  Steve can stand a great deal of pain, think through it, fight through it, he always could. The serum gave him other gifts. His skin is sensitive to touch, gooseflesh rippling across his flesh as Darcy’s fingers press into him. The bumps subside quickly enough and but he needs a distraction to keep his focus off the cool touch of Darcy’s small hands. He reaches out with the arm not currently being drawn on to run his fingers over the edges of the green sketchbook. “May I?”

 

“What? Oh, my sketchbook. Sure, go ahead.”

 

He doesn't know Darcy well, hardly at all really, but she joined up with the Avengers Initiative and mostly stayed with the other analysts or occasionally visited one of the lab levels, which was explained by her having rolled in with Dr Foster. He hadn't been curious enough to read her file, not yet anyway. He left that to Nat, and Maria Hill who were hardwired for such things. And of course there was Stark, who wasn’t hard wired for it but had a desperate need to know everything about everyone working for the Initiative. There were some things that needed to be known, but a lot more that he really had no interest in knowing.

 

The pages of the sketch book spoke to him more than any digital file ever would. Darcy was in those pages, in the patterns and lines, in the bright spots of color, splashes of paint and coffee, rough sketches and layers of book pages and bits of fabric painted and stitched together.

 

He turns the page, fingertips brushing over a scrap of lace and thick swirls of purple and black acrylic paint. It’s the use of color that catches him the most. The vibrant colors leap from the pages and for a moment Steve loses himself in the memory of when the colors in his world were muted and dark. The thought of losing the full spectrum of color that he saw now was one of his most private fears, beyond being unable to help people, or the thought of becoming sickly again. Steve refocused on the open page, clearing his throat to say, “These are great.”

 

“Thanks,” she says, ducking her head down, to hide the blush creeping into her cheeks.

 

“They really are. The color use is…”

 

"FYI these pens are awesome. Think they'll let me keep ‘em?" she interrupts, waving one of the pens in front of his face.

 

"Probably not," Steve says, struggling to hold still as she colors in a patch of blue on his shoulder.

 

"Damn," she mutters, pressing the pen to the inside of his arm. Darcy concentrates on her work, occasionally handing him pens, and paintbrushes to hold. The tension in the room shifts up and down as they talk. Darcy babbles on about art, music, the idiot ex agent two floors up that has a black thumb with technology, and with a little encouragement she talks about Dr. Foster and Thor as she draws. “Stand up,” she bosses, ink stained fingertips tapping at his elbow.

 

Steve dutifully stands, following her direction to hold his right arm up over his head, giving Darcy access to  sketch along his side, from his ribs to his hip bone above the line of his trousers. There’s a pen in her mouth and another tucked behind her ear.

 

“Be still!”

 

“I am.”

 

The pen swirls against the side of his ribs, and her hand presses warm on his side.  The spot is sensitive and Steve curls his toes and bites his lip to keep in the bubble of laughter building in his chest. "Okay, stop, stop," he laughs, twisting out of her reach.

 

“Seriously?” she says, brow arched over the top of her glasses. She pokes at his chest, away from the side she had been drawing on. "Do I need to call Ms. Romanoff back or are you going to behave like a good little patriot-that-blew-up-half-of-DC?"

 

“Tickles,” he mutters, sullenly lifting his arm back up over his head and mentally forcing himself to relax.  His mind drifts over the details of the mission one more time as Darcy twists him back and forth, shading in lines here and there over his side.

 

"You know they never said anything about this," she smiles,  tugging at his chest hair.

 

"Ow," he says batting at the hand not holding the pen.

 

"Baby," Darcy laughs, eyes shining bright, pink lips bitten red. “You are good to go, Captain.”

 

“It’s safe to call me by my name you know. I’m half naked and in your good hands,” he says as close to innocently as he can muster.

 

Oh, my God, you did not.”

 

“Did not what?”

 

“You’re a jerk,” Darcy snorts, poking his chest with one ink stained finger. It doesn’t hurt but it does startle a laugh out of him.

 

“Maybe,” he says catching her wrist in his hand. He can feel her pulse race beneath his fingers and his eyes flick down to her red bitten mouth, and he unconsiously licks his lips . The tiniest gasp escapes her lips, and a jolt of anticipation travels down his spine.

 

“Looking good,” Natasha says from the open doorway, a clothing bag slung over her arm and a far too knowing smile curving across her mouth.  “You ready to get dressed?”

 

Shit. Steve keeps himself from jumping, but Darcy’s eyes go wide as she tugs her hand free of his grasp.

He’s pretty sure he just fell into the spider’s trap. “Yeah,” he says, nodding sharply. “Thank you, Darcy.”

 

“No problemo, Captain Rogers. Go have fun raising tattooed hell,” Darcy says as she shoves the pens back into their Stark Industries case. One pen is still tucked behind her left ear as she turns to leave. He is far too tempted to watch every step she takes, watch the languid roll of her hips as she walks, but he can feel Natasha’s eyes on him.

 

“Adorable,” Nat grins, holding out the garment bag in her perfectly manicured hand.

 

Steve jaw twitches as he grabs the bag and slips behind the door Nat tilts her head towards. The bathroom is small, but brightly lit and he gets the first true glimpse of the ink staining his skin.

 

Splashes of blue shading to grey, indigo and green from his shoulder to his right wrist, his left arm is covered in black lines and dots. Stars and  constellations like the buttons on Darcy’s cardigan. Black lines that form the bodies of animals stand out against the swirling watercolor effect of the colors.

 

Bird, and fox, and spider, and bear, in clean geometric shapes. Thick and thin lines that crawl across his skin. It’s beautiful and there is a small part of him that wishes the ink were real and not just a temporary mark made with a product cooked up in the labs.

 

He traces  his fingers over the splotches and geometric lines painted on his body, Darcy’s art written in his skin. “Damn,” he whispers to himself.

 

“Did you fall in?” Natasha calls through the door.

 

“Christ,” Steve mutters, rolling his eyes and stripping out of his pants before slipping into the clothes Natasha gave him. The jeans are tight, nearly as form fitting as the suit, with slightly less hopping around to get them on. He’s barely buttoned up the shirt when Natasha opens the door and sets to work attacking his hair with buzz clippers and more products than he has ever seen.

 

"M'hair's stupid," Steve says, reaching up to touch the stiff strands of his dyed hair. The sides and back are shaved, barely a whisper of hair there, but the dark strands of his hair are slicked up and ridiculously tall. Bucky would appreciate it, he thinks. Bucky was always one to try the latest hair pomade, style, or that one time he sparked off Steve’s asthma with a god awful aftershave ‘guaranteed to please the ladies’ and more likely to send them off in droves.

 

"Stop it," Natasha says, batting his hand away. "Hmmm."

 

"What?"

 

"You're missing something."

 

"What," he rolls his eyes and lifts the messenger bag over his shoulder.  The bag isn't far off what he used to carry to art school once upon a time. His eyes fall on the tattoos peeking out from the rolled up sleeves of his button down. Those he doesn't mind on his skin. He lets the memory of Darcy's hands on him warm his chest for a moment before brutally locking his thoughts up and focusing on the mission.

 

Natasha rifles through one of the suitcases and Steve threads the cord of an iPod under his shirt. The earbuds poke out through the top of his shirt and he pokes the left one in his ear. He thumbs across the dial and chooses a playlist at random. Ella Fitzgerald begins to play in his ear. Steve rolls up on his toes, rubs his hand over the fake ink peeking out from the rolled up sleeves of his plaid shirt.

 

"Here, try these," Natasha smirks, tossing a pair of glasses at him. Ray-ban is written on the stem of the tortoise shell frames and Steve pushes them up his nose.

 

"Well?"

 

"Fucking hipster," Natasha says, eyes lit up in glee. She pulls out a Starkphone and says "Smile."

 

Steve scowls and fiddles with the strap of the messenger bag. "You done?"

 

"Nope."

 

"Well, I am."

 

“You gonna ask her out? She’s hot and you were flirting. You two looked rather cozy.”

 

“I have a mission, Nat, I don’t need your matchmaking services.”

 

“I think you do.”

 

“The last time you tried to set me up it was with Peggy's granddaughter."

 

"Admittedly that was an oversight, Lewis checks out, and you were quite busy checking her out earlier."

 

“Nat.”

 

“You’re adorable,” Nat says, pinching his cheek. Steve knows better than to bat Natasha’s hand away but the scowl on his face doesn’t go to great with the heat creeping up his neck.



“Stop it, and I’ll think about asking Darcy out after the mission.”

 

“Good.”